Posted by: atowhee | February 21, 2018


There were dozens of robins in the ‘hood today.  That is the neighbrohood of Wennerberg Park.  I think the low elevation of snow cover in the nearby Coastal Range was probably what brought so many more down into the valley.  They were in the trees, in the clover field, on the lawns and ball diamonds, in the air.  A few even were singing.

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


FEB. 20-2018, McMinnville

The first bird at the feeders this morning was a lone Myrtle Warbler. Light snow was falling as he arrived at 755 AM.  Soon a small group of juncos came in along with the first of the Golden-crowned Sparrows. By 8AM there were at least 20 juncos and two of the sparrows, most feeding on the ground beneath the roof…out of the snow.  The juncos were flitting through the bushes. Wherever one landed on a flimsy branch, it loosed tiny avalanches.MYRT GLANCMYRT GLANC2MYRT GLANC3

Around 9AM the squirrel quartet arrived to pig out on the sunflower seeds.  Their maneuvers and fussing with one another for position on the feeders disconcerted the birds.  Tbhe Myrtle Warbler returned just as the first House Sparrows showed up.  In a few minutes the only Audubon;s Warbler came in and fed.  The towhee pair arrived next.

The snowfall increased, stopping finally around 10AM but the day was too warm for the snow to last.IMG_3859IMG_3860

Late in the morning both the Bewick’s Wren and two Black-capped Chickadees arrived.  By 1220PM a Downy Woodpecker was present, not a bird that I see daily but occasionally.  It may have a larger home territory than the smaller birds who are often at the feeders several times per day or just hang around continuously (like the juncos and sparrows).

In mid-afternoon a friend and I sat at his kitchen table with feeders just outside the near window.  Red-breasted Nuthatch pair, juncos, Bewick’s Wren and a single Myrtle’s Warbler all showed up.  He’s seen a Song Sparrow  recently but it was not present at that time. The wren:bw outsidbw-boldThe tail tells the tale, up or down, tilted, waved or vibrated–a message in each tail couple:RBN CAGEThis must be a paired pair as nuthatches are not known to be generous with one another unless there is … a relationship.RBN GLANC3RBN GLANC4rfbn glanc5

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


If you are willing to stand up for environmental action you face some serious danger in today’s America.

Edward Abbey would not be surprised as the fossil fuel industry and its subservient pols bend over backwards to keep the oil and gas flowing as we try to heat up our planet even further.

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


Three new titles worth of consideration.  If you are a serious gardener, and you don’t want to simply cover every surfaced with toxic chemicals, here’s a book that helps you know your enemy:
Garden Insects of North America. Second Edition.
By Whitney Cranshaw and David Shetlar.  704 pages!   3300 color photos!!   $35.PRINCBK3
Not just the insects but also their eggs, their larvae, the damage they do and what it looks like.  Here is what a typical page looks like:GRDN BUGSSo this book is more than a source of identification.  It helps with diagnosis and treatment.  Clearly it is often necessary to look on the under-side of the leaf…

Monarchs and Milkweed.
Bu Anurag Agrawal.  283 pages, over 70 illustrations.PRINCBK2
This  book describes the close connection between monarchs and milkweeds, which are poisonous to people and some other animals.  The plant and the butterfly have been engaged in eons of evolutionary struggle, one to resist and the other to overcome that resistance.  Now even the monarch itself can be toxic to some predators…if the milkweed only knew how it was actually helping the monarch.  Thus does coevolution continue.  Now it has has been disrupted by people and their pesticides.
Agrawal is optimistic about the monarchs’ future, pointing out they have expanded their worldwide range just as humans have carelessly scattered milkweed seeds expanding the range of those plants.  Wherever milkweed spreads, thither goes the monarch.  Some populations are migratory, others sedentary; whatever survival demands.

A Taste for the Beautiful. The evolution of attraction.
By Michael J, Ryan.  208 pages.  24 illustrations.PRINCE BK1
“The details of an animal’s brain give rise to its sexual aesthetics, which, in turn, drive the evolution of beauty in that species.  Specifically, I argue that beauty only exists because it pleases the eyes, ears, or noses of the beholder; more generally, that beauty is in the brain of the beholder.”
There is Ryan’s central argument.  His book expands, explains, gives numerous examples and samples.  He also tells how predators and parasites often use one species’ mating rituals or appearance to that species’ detriment.  The courtship activities explored include fireflies, guppies and birds.  With birds and crickets and frogs, naturally, a song is not JUST a song.  Fun and enlightening to read.

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


Led by first class passenger, EPA head Pruitt, the Trumpistas have been hell-bent on removing any barrier to corporate profit, especially those that might protect air, water, wildlife or even human health.  The anti-environment crusade of the current regime has not been always successful in court.

And there is now research that indicates some species may respond to climate change with evolutionary change which in turn could enable survival.  But let’s not get too enthusiastic because we now know the Permian extinction event was catastrophic and eliminated most species that had evolved up to that time.  The severity of the climate change still matters greatly for life on this planet.

Posted by: atowhee | February 19, 2018


Nora, the dog, and I were overlooking the Merlot Marsh in north McMinnville this morning.  Up in the sky I noticed a mature Bald Eagle.  The sunlight reflected off the clean white and warm brown feathers, making the bird glow before the soft blue sky. As the big bird circled and soared, it moved in front of cottony white clouds.  As he moved along Baker Creek he suddenly back-flapped his large wings, then settled down onto a perch in the top of the tallest tree along the

In the marsh I heard a single song from a Song Sparrow.  Several measures of pure music compared to the short ditty sung daily now by the male Red-winged Blackbirds. Nearby one female red-wing seemed to be attending to the concert:rw woman

Down on No Name Pond there had been a gathering of Pintails.  Last time I visited there had been only a single pair.  Today at least ten.

The overnight weather had been both cold and wet.  On the east-facing slope of Coast Range foothills I could see the thin sheet of snow that extended down below a thousand feet in elevation.  Thus, the first time this winter.  It had snowed in the valley but as the snow dropped it soon melted away.  Yet snow drops of the living kind were in abundance in some gardens this sno1IMG_3844IMG_3707On the ground hoard frost lingered in shaded spots.  Each symmetrical crystal was joined to many others in an asymmetrical pattern that would make a surrealist’s daydream:IMG_3851

In our garden we were visited by a single Myrtle Warbler, hours later a lone Audubon’s.  I am now noticing that when I see scrub-jays in the ‘hood, they are mostly in pairs now. Also the House Finches that come daily finally agreed to pose for a picture or two:hf on flathf on flat2

Merlot Marsh–private land, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 19, 2018 10:40 AM – 10:50 AM.  9 species

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X

Pinot Noir Drive NW, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 19, 2018 10:50 AM – 11:25 AM.  15 species

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1     same bird seen from Merlot Marsh earlier
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  3
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  6
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  12
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | February 18, 2018


A Fall of Winter This Day Comes

Mid-morning the season’s first snowfall began, ended and melted away.  During the brief flurry the temperature fell more than two degrees Fahrenheit, dropping to near 34, still above freezing. Even as the snow fell, the Bushtit gang came by the suet feeders.  They will not be deterred by wind, snow or unpleasant weather.  The daily calorie count is crucial to their survival, which is their main concern in this season.  Nesting is still at least six weeks in the future so they have not begun to form pairs.  Some of our resident birds are paired already.  The male and female Spotted Towhees now come to feed together after months of aloneness and even sporadic animosity at the feeders. And earlier this week, for the first time, the two identical (to my eyes) Bewick’s Wrens came as a pair to feed. In some dense bush near our house they will nest again this year, and their quick melodies will be heard in April and May.

Mid-day the morning storm was passed but the wind persisted.  The next wave of clouds and rainy snow was moving westerly, down from the Coastal Range. Whatever form it takes, we welcome the falling water. Just after 2 PM the next storm hit, by 2:45PM it was rain and snow. Perhaps nudged along by this front, a tiny forest shadow moved across our patio—it was a Pacific Wren that would normally be in some dark, damp creekside canyon.  It is the first time this season I’ve seen a Pacific Wren in our very suburban neighborhood.  It’s not a bird I would expect to stay long but snow may fall tonight so he could be here for morning at our birdy B & at loggbt at logg2Bushtit above, Bewick’s Wren below:bwwwmmmlmw flttr2Myrtle Warblermyrt-looog


Posted by: atowhee | February 16, 2018


Both California and Florida have endemic species of scrub-jay.  In California the Island Scrubber is found only on Santa Cruz Island off Ventura.  In Florida their Florida Scrubber is found in …well, scrub, isolated genetically hundreds of miles from the more western scrub-jay species.  But it was apparently the hatred of one NRA lobbyist that prevented the state of Florida from adopting their native corvid as the state bird.

Florida can proudly boast of being a state where almost anybody can buy a gun or almost any description…in fact one can buy a gun before one can buy a beer, and the state still prevents sale of marijuana.  Don’t smoke pot, it’s dangerous, you know…just buy another assault rifle in case the neighbors get out of hand…

And Florida has the highest density of gun dealers of any state in the union.  But all is not rosy for the gun industry here in Gunland.  They have won so many political battles, and sold so ma y guns, they may have saturated the market.  Without a gun-control advocate in the White House, the NRA and gun sellers have no visible goblin to scare the suspicious (not to say paranoid) white gun owners into buying ever more guns and ammo.  It has long been true that a minority of American households actually own guns, but those that do can be stampeded into stocking up because “they are coming to take your guns.”

The NRA’s been so successful politically that lack of gun control and a pro-gun president are now hurting the gun business.  Ah, gee…maybe Congress and Trump would like to see some subsidies for the gun guys?  After all, we already give federal support to corn farmers, oil companies, cattle farmers, frackers…why not gunners?  Doesn’t that sound patriotic?  Bet the NRA would pony up donations for that.

Posted by: atowhee | February 15, 2018


I grew up on a farm where we always had chickens.  “Pecking order” had a real, literal meaning among some social birds. Today I saw a non-violent version of dominance play out on our feeding platform.  It is usual for towhees to frighten juncos, collared-doves to scare off towhees, starlings to push aside the siskins or bushtits…today it was one chickadee chasing away another.  It began with our lone Black-capped Chickadee on the feeder by itself:BCC-STILLBCC-STILL2BCC-STILL3BCC-STILL4After coming and going several times the black-cap suddenly looked up…to find…a chestnut-backed cousin on the far side of the platform.  What egregious effrontery, no?BCC AND CBCHBCC And cbch2The very idea!  So little BC flies down onto the platform, shooing off even littler CB…and then plucks a morsel from the feeder and exits, stage right.bcc and cbch3bcc exitbcc exit2bcc exit3

Later the Bushtits arrived with their usual nervous landings and fussing and fluttering.  At one moment a junco was on the far end of the feeder alert to the littler bird’s twitchy behavior:bt on flatbt on flat2At Baskett Slough the light was nearly perfect as the sun is still low in the sky, little or no glare off the water if you are looking north with sun from behind.  Green-winged Teal:gwt-watrSleeping pintails and passing female shoveler in the back row:IMG_3248One of the dozens of skeins of Cacklers going back and forth across the heavens, cackling the while:IMG_3254Thsi small flock of cacklers are hanging out at the lowest point on Colville Road where there is watery marsh on both sides.  One of them has a bad wing, from injury or gunshot…the others seem to be his/her cohort:IMG_3264Injured bird is at lower left.  Walks and swims fine.IMG_3270IMG_3286Half of the Bald Eagle pair that were doing courtship flight before they parted and this bird went overhead:IMG_3290IMG_3312 820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 15, 2018.  13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)  2
Bushtit (Pacific) (Psaltriparus minimus [minimus Group])  20
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  20
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  3
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)  X
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Feb 15, 2018.  17 species–wind kept down most songbirds
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X–thousands
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)  X
Mallard (Northern) (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos/conboschas)  X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  X
Green-winged Teal (American) (Anas crecca carolinensis)  X
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  1
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)  1
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  3
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  4–including a pair in courtship flight
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
American Coot (Fulica americana)  X
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  1

Posted by: atowhee | February 14, 2018


MAM TURKEYSThis picture from Marieannette McCabe near her home along Ashland Mine Road in southern Oregon.  Males trying to look seductive…you be the judge.  Must work on some level as there are lots of wild turkeys in this part of the world.

They are an introduced species in California and Oregon.

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